Into the wild



As part of National Wildlife Week, Mrinmayee Thakur and Ninoschka Pinto from The Global Shapers, Panaji Hub organised a series of interviews with wildlife experts. The aim was to bring wildlife conservation to the fore through talks on various subjects related to the field of environmental conservation including the role of the Forest Department of Goa, geospatial mapping and its various applications, responsible tourism, environmental education, reptile conservation, corporate social responsibility, and monitoring of birds.

The first talk was conducted by forest official, Paresh Porob who spoke about the Forest Department’s work towards the protection of wildlife. Referring to the Wildlife Protection Act and Atharva Veda, he said that wildlife in itself includes every living being from mosses to lofty trees, from microscopic bacteria to the largest whale. The department’s vast jurisdiction ranges from deep forests of the Western Ghats to the oceans lining Goa’s state boundary. Their work in the forest focuses on how ecology functions and is aimed at soil and moisture conservation, protection of gene-pool reservoirs, grassland management, and revenue generation through ecotourism initiatives.

There are many institutes in India which can aid in training forest officers, added Porob mentioning his alma-mater, Central Academy for State Forest Service and Wildlife Trust of India. He further advised the younger generation to take a few minutes away from the screen and go out, observe nature in their surroundings. “Youth should start appreciating their diverse surroundings and they will find a path to follow this amazing career,” he said.

In the next session, Madhura Niphadkar representing the Foundation for Environment Research and Conservation (FERC) spoke about how one can study geospatial technology and how it can help in biodiversity mapping. Among different applications of this technology such as habitat mapping, occupancy surveys, tracking wildlife movement and migration, this tool can also be used for mitigation of the current question of sustainable development, for example in Mollem. She also talked about citizen science as a means for the general public to contribute to the protection of wildlife. Some of the common portals open for contribution are eBird, India Biodiversity Portal, iNaturalist, and Seasonwatch, she said.

Founder of Terra Conscious, Puja Mitra introduced the audience to the world of marine wildlife. She stated that marine wildlife conservation is only possible with good coordination between the forest department, the department of animal husbandry and veterinary services, locals, tourists, and other stakeholders. Training of the professionals and awareness among the locals would go a long way to saving animals stranded on the beach, she added. Mitra further explained how every other ecosystem is recorded and biodiversity is monitored but the marine ecosystem tends to be ignored, when in fact, it should be a high priority because it is affected by a variety of factors.

Founder of Study and Awareness of Wildlife and Environment (SAWE), Charan Desai spoke about misconceptions in society regarding snakes and other reptiles. During the session, he busted several myths associated with reptiles. It is important to eradicate this stigma with the help of awareness from a young age, he said. He further advised that since snakes are present in our surroundings, they take refuge in objects of regular use such as vehicles, AC vents, etc and we need to take special care during winters. He further urged the public to drive carefully to avoid roadkill.

During his session, former member, State Wildlife Board, Manoj Borkar stated that environmental education needs to be given equal importance as practical subjects like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. He further emphasised that environmental education needs a region-specific syllabus. “A student in the Western Ghats cannot fully understand the seriousness of melting ice caps in the Himalayas. Instead, they could be taught about the change in lichens and decrease/increase in rainfall in their locality. Students should be taught about biodiversity and climate change in their own locality,” he said.

Programme manager, Mineral Foundation of Goa, Parag Rangnekar talked about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how one can best use it for the primary purpose of wildlife conservation. While talking about the positive and negative impacts of any corporate, Rangnekar suggested that every company should own up to its negative impacts before starting any CSR project, and try to change it if possible. “Investing in livelihoods of locals, enriching existing biodiversity of the surroundings would be an ideal step while implementing any CSR project,” he said.

President of Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN), Omkar Dharwadkar spoke about the migratory birds and how their patterns are getting affected by man-made structures along the way. He introduced ‘e-bird’ a citizen science venture that can be used by the ordinary man who wishes to do his part in bird conservation.